MISSOULA, Mont. – Downtown business owners in Missoula see a need for a quick stop parking option. Love them or hate them, the new LUKE parking meters are here to stay. “It angers me, it really does,” one Missoula resident told us. “I think it’s awesome, we’ve finally joined […]
Downtown business owners in Missoula see a need for a quick stop parking option.
Love them or hate them, the new LUKE parking meters are here to stay.
"It angers me, it really does,” one Missoula resident told us.
"I think it's awesome, we've finally joined the 21st century," another said.
But there's one more change downtown business owners say is dire.
"They did what they thought was right, and it ends up being entirely wrong," Otis McCullough said.
McCullough has owned the Bell Pipe and Tobacco Shop for seven years. He says when the LUKE machines were installed in January his business took a hit.
"This last January, my sales were worse than they were in January of 2010," McCullough said.
"I (blame) it on the parking because, as you can see, the empty spots on the street, and if there's no one on the street there's no one in my store or the stores next to me," he added.
He says the problem is twofold -- the time and impact to learn and use the machines and the increase in prices.
The old meters would take a nickel for a quick stop. But the shortest time offered on the LUKE machines is a "Fast 30" for 50 cents.
"They never said they were going to double the price," commented a Missoula resident.
"(Customers) are not going to put in 50 cents to walk in and get a bottle and then leave," Mark Hlebichuk said.
Hlebichuk owns the Montana Distillery. He says the parking situation is a work in progress.
"The nice thing about the system is that it can be changed," Hlebichuk added.
The director of the parking commission says it won't happen until at least this fall.
"We recognize that something needs to happen," Rod Austin said.
First he wants to see a budget report from the first six months of the LUKE kiosks, check into other options like a smartphone application and detail which businesses should get the express stop.
"We are actually working on criteria for a business to come and say 'Hey, we need to have a quick stop' and criteria that they would have to meet in order to get one of those."
In the meantime McCullough has a few ideas.
"We are going to stay open later. Stay open to 6 p.m. and see if that increases the traffic. If that does, then we'll stay open until 7,” he said. “We're going to do some advertising that says come down Saturdays after 5 and shop and avoid these meters."
The hope is to increase traffic and bring customers downtown
Austin says the cellphone applications should be ready by August 1. That way you can pay for more time right from your phone instead of going to the kiosk.